2006-Oct-18 – Public Meeting article published in Asheville Citizen-Times

Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Angie Newsome's article titled "Residents afraid for city's future" reflects on the recent Swannanoa community meeting held at the Swannanoa fire department… SWANNANOA — A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 400 people packed the Swannanoa Fire Department Tuesday night to air concerns and hopes about Swannanoa’s future, from impending development to annexation and incorporation.

Musician Bert Brown started the meeting by singing “Swannanoa,” a song whose refrain asked “Swannanoa, where are you going?”

Throughout the meeting, residents asked versions of that question to area leaders and elected officials, ranging from Buncombe County commissioners to N.C. House and Senate representatives.

The newly formed Swannanoa Pride Community Coalition called the meeting to give residents a chance to learn about and comment on the direction of Swannanoa.

The community in recent years has endured the closing of manufacturers and the destruction of the Beacon Manufacturing building, long thought of as a community cornerstone.

“Despite all those hardships there’s a lot of life left in Swannanoa,” organizer and group member Carol Groben told the crowd. “You can tell that by looking around this room.”

Residents who spoke Tuesday were mixed about whether some of the burgeoning change is good or bad.

Many residents said they were concerned about plans by The Cliffs Communities to put nearly 600 lots on nearly 1,300 acres here.

The development is the largest subdivision submitted to the county government since it the mid-1990s, when it started regulating subdivisions in rural areas.

Resident Rebecca Williams questioned the developer’s submission of plans before the county enacted new steep-slope regulations in July.

“My request, as a gesture of good faith, is if the Cliffs would consider abiding by steep-slope regulations,” she said.

Donald Nickell Jr., senior director of planning and development with The Cliffs, said the development would follow the rules in place when plans were submitted.

“Whether we will build all of these lots, I can’t say because, again, we are very much in the preliminary plan,” he said.

Others said they welcomed the development and all it can bring to the community, including contributions to local charities, said Joe Eblen, with Eblen Charities.

“If they hadn’t been there,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able to help the 60,000 families we’ve helped in the last year.”

While The Cliffs’ plans were debated, others just wanted area property owners to take more pride in the community.

Some asked that the “downtown” area of Swannanoa be cleaned up. And Terry McFee Dorlan, owner of the Swannanoa Flower Shop, said eyesores like abandoned trailer parks needed fixing.

“Unless we get this place cleaned up,” she said, “we’re not going anywhere.”

Contact Angie Newsome at 828-232-5856, via e-mail at

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